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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've got a 90G long tank running a Eheim Professional 3 filter, Co2 injection (drop checker green), dosing PPS-pro (using green leaf aquarium kit), moderately planted, running a BUILDMYLED 2300k fixture with 90deg beam angle (should be 60 par at bottom of the tank according to the data sheets). I'm using ADA aqua soil. And this is a fishless cycle.

I'm about a month into the cycle of this new tank and this brown stuff is growing insanely fast. I've not seen anything like it. The growth started about 10 days ago. The attached photos are after about 2 days worth of growth after a 50% water change and cutting down and netting the majority of the brown threads. I'm doing 30-50% water changes every other day, along with running through my test kits.

My last test kit saw the Ammonia finally drop from being off the chart to 0.25 ppm, I'm about 3 or 4 days into the nitrite spike, and nitrate seems to be steadily maintaining 5 or 10 ppm.

My plants seem healthy, despite All the brown junk, even my HC seems to be doing okay. I'm seeing new growth on all my plants.

Is this some kind of algae, diatoms? What should I do? My current plan is to do a 50% water change tonight and hack back and net as much of the brown stuff as I can. I'm hoping that time and adding clean up crew once my cycle is done will take care of the rest. Should I be doing something else?

All of this seemed to kick start right around the time that I realized I had a problem with my filter (10 days ago) which restricted its flow to nearly nothing. I noticed about 3 days after the filter had gone awry (I put the foam pad in wrong and it stopped up the pump (doh!)

Any help would be much appreciated!




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I am not sure what kind of algae that is.

pH is so low the nitrifying bacteria are growing rather slowly (a month into this and the NO2 is just showing up is very slow).
Continue the water changes to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels low (under 5ppm for both of these)
The substrate will eventually run out of ammonia, then you can add Nitrospira species of bacteria out of a bottle. This will boost the population high enough to take care of whatever livestock you want.

Or, if you intend keeping some fish or shrimp that prefer harder water, then adjust the GH and KH up now, and keep them up. This will grow the bacteria much faster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ammonia and nitrite were both 0 tonight and nitrate was high, looked like 80 ppm. I did a 70% water change. That brown stuff is growing like mad still. I tried to remove some without uprooting too many plants but ended up sacrificing some HC. I suppose I can stock some fish now. My KH was 2 and GH was 4 tonight . It was my first time testing those 2 metrics.

I'm a little nervous about the algae. Should I just stock fish now and hope it goes away? Or, should I be thinking about breaking the tank down and cleaning everything and starting fresh?


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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The growth started before I even started dosing my PPS-PRO micros (plantex CSM+B). However, I might be overdosing a bit because the most recent instructions say to do 0.1ml per 10 gallons (i have 90 gallons, so 0.9 ml total) but I've been eyeballing it in a 5ml container, so i'm probably way overdoing it. However, I just ordered a nice glass pipette that should let me accurately measure 0.9ml.

These are the ferts i'm using:
Our PPS-Pro Fertilizer Pack ? Just Mix & Dose ? Planted Tank Blog

They recently changed the micros dosing from 1ml per 10 gallons to 0.1ml per 10 gallons. That's a huge reduction. If I'm overdosing now, people must have been overdosing with good results for years.

But, like you- I'll try anything to get this brown junk reduced. It's consuming my tank. I also just ordered a circulation pump to try and see if more flow will help.

Thanks!
 

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The brown "algae" is probably not an algae at all. I am saying this because in general, algae can grow (photosynthesize) anywhere in the tank and are rarely restricted in their location. Here, however, I don't see any algae on places like the plants or glass wall, but strictly on the substrate.

This makes me believe that the hairy brown "algae" draws a nutrient vital for its growth from the substrate. ( If this is a fungus then cellulose-like material in the substrate could be responsible.)

IMO, your dosing of fertilizer would not make a difference since that goes into the water column.
How fast did this hairy brown "algae" grow? Fungi can produce these "hairs" in a few days, but they will not grow these anymore, once they run out of the vital nutrient in the substrate.

So perhaps, you can just wait and it will disappear? I would do frequent water changes though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It grew fast, I'd say it went from 0 to 2 inches in a day. I haven't let it go for more than 2 or 3 days before cutting it back, but it always grows right back. I've done maybe 4 big trims on it now.

The rock that is weighing down the driftwood and the java fern (and to some extent the rest of the plants) have brown stuff on it (diatoms I've been assuming). there is also a layer of brown goop on the driftwood as well as some green staining like algae in the small cracks and crevices of the driftwood. Those aren't showing up well in the photos. So there are a few things going on, but there is very little actual green algae. What is there seems to be all mixed up in the brown stuff so I tend to think the brown stuff is preventing some algae spores from getting filtered out.

I'm not exactly an expert with planted tanks, but its also not my first one. I've had to deal with all kinds of algae before, but this stuff is just something else entirely. I've never seen such growth. I've also never had my pH be so low. I've been assuming its just due to a large piece of driftwood giving off tannins.

I didn't boil the driftwood (because its too big) but I'm wondering if that's the root of the problem or if I'm just being neurotic at this point. Maybe I should take the wood out, put it in a clean trash can and start pouring pots of boiling water on it. Perhaps some undesirable caught a ride on it? However, it took 2 weeks for anything to show up at all, but once the stuff showed up. BANG. It just exploded.

I'm thinking that I'm just going to wait it out and do lots of water changes unless someone has some compelling reason to take more action.
 

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@dversion,

what you are describing here is indicative of fungal growth.
Certainly, the color supports that. Fungi can have all sorts of color, but they are never green, because they do NOT photosynthesize, and therefore, do not need light to grow. The primary food source for fungi is all kinds of dead organic material ( Although rare, certain fungi can actually invade live organisms, such as plant and fish and grow on them. However, these fungi HAVE to be treated or actually eradicated, to avoid a disaster)
As I indicated earlier, fungi can grow very fast if they find the right nutrient. The best source for fast growth occurs on sugar-based material, such as paper, wood (includes cellulose), and anything that contains starch.

What you actually "see" growing are the "fruiting-bodies" that contain the spores. The actual fungus is a mycelium that is hidden in the substrate. It develops from spores and needs time to grow before it matures and produces new spores.
Actually, it is very possible that you introduced the fungus with the driftwood. ( So, boiling driftwood before you add it to your tank is always a good idea ) As for this hairy brown (fungal) growth, it will always come back despite manual removal. As long as the food source is not exhausted, the mycelium will produce new spores. To truly get rid of the fungus, you would have to sterilize EVERYTHING.

Even though it is unsightly, I would wait until the fungus runs out of nutrients, at which time the brown hairs will just disappear. I suggest to continue with water changes and vacuum off the visible brown "algae" until no new growth occurs.

BTW, I agree with you, there are probably some brown algae in your tank as well, unless it is just detritus.

The prime words in this business is: HAVE PATIENCE !!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
@g4search

Thanks so much for this. Okay, so should I be trying to avoid stirring it up too much and just let it grow and grow? I've been sort of aggressive with removing it so far, and surely I've been stirring it up into the water column. Do you think spreading to the inside of the filter is a concern?

Tonight, before reading this, I had already cut and pulled a lot of the stuff again (growth rate is just astounding) which stirred it up pretty good. I was siphoning at the same time and did an 80% water change in effort to remove as much floating debris as I can. However, it sounds like you're suggesting that I not take any action and just let it grow.

I'll go with the do-nothing approach for a bit.

Thanks for the advice.
 

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@dversion,

you are doing everything right at this juncture. It is what I suggested:

"Even though it is unsightly, I would wait until the fungus runs out of nutrients, at which time the brown hairs will just disappear. I suggest to continue with water changes and vacuum off the visible brown 'algae' until no new growth occurs."

Whenever I have a problem, I always wonder, how this could happen. In this case, I wonder what the nutrient is that the fungus thrives on, and how much is there. Because that determines how long you have to deal with this fungus. I looked at your picture again, and I am now convinced that the food source is in substrate, the drift wood is secondary.

Usually ADA aqua soil does not have anything that fungi love to grow on, so there MUST be something else? Mulch, for example, or paper (cotton), or just dead plant material. If there is a way to remove it, the fungus would stop growing immediately.

Well, it's all in your hands. (At least you don't have to worry about any fish) Take care !
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks @Diana, @g4search, and @latchdan for all of your advice.

It's been a couple of weeks and the growth of that brown algae/diatom/fungus has seriously subsided. I still have a fair amount of it left in the tank, but it's no longer growing like crazy. I daresay it has even stopped growing for the most part.

I can't say if this correlation implies any causation, but I have reduced my water changes from 3 or 4 per week, to 2, and have started stocking some fish. I've got 2 cory cats, 7 oto cats, and 2 dwarf gourami. I also have more cory cats on the way along with some tetras.

I haven't actually seen any of the oto cats eat the brown stuff, but maybe they are. They never show any interest in the algae wafers I drop in the tank, so I guess they're eating something else. They're always busy on the plant leaves and driftwood where there is a little bit of green algae, so that must be it.

I've been slowly tweaking up the co2 every few days to try and find the right balance. Also, quite suddenly my dwarf baby tears is really taking off and growing out now.
 

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I think it's more likely that it used up all the nutrients, but you never know. Glad to hear you've come out the other side.

Every time you remove what is left, it will have to regrow that to try and reproduce (always their goal) and therefore require extra energy and using more of whatever it's feeding on. I think one or two more big removals and you should be golden.
 
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